Let’s be honest here, folks. Having a newborn is hard.
It’s a major transition – for your other kids (if you’ve got ‘em), for you and your husband, for the two of you as a couple, and for your family as a whole.
Between recovering, getting used to this new little person and rearranging your life to find a new normal, things can be off kilter for a while — and sometimes beyond the newborn stage.
For me (and many of my clients with little babies), the hardest part of the transition is those afternoon hours. The kids are home and need attention and TLC, not to mention dinner, bedtime, and sometimes homework help. They want to get out of the house, get some fresh air, or maybe you have some errands to run.
And somehow, somewhere, baby’s got to sleep.
And that’s where my favorite prop comes in: babywearing.
I know, I know. The two terms might sound a little oxymoronic coming from me – how can it be both a prop, and something that you like? – so we’ll talk in a bit about how I like to use it.
But first let’s talk about why it’s my favorite prop.
Babywearing, when done right, creates a perfect little sleep sanctuary for your baby. If your carrier has a nap-cover, or if it’s a wrap and you can create a nap cover, or, really, if it doesn’t have a nap cover and you just grab a blanket to drape over your baby’s head (being sure you set it up in a safe way, of course!), you can easily make that little space dark and cozy.
Babywearing comes with a built-in noise machine, too (your heartbeat!), and is in your baby’s favorite place: with you. Remember – it’s a big, bad, scary world out there for your baby, and being with you is her favorite place in the weeks and months after birth.
And, unlike any other sleep sanctuary, it’s portable. Need to serve your kids dinner? No problem. Going to the park? Perfect. Running out the grocery down the block? Babywearing’s got you covered.
Building Babywearing Into your Newborn’s POA
So let’s talk about how and when to use babywearing – in a way that serves you and doesn’t compromise your baby’s sleep.
My carrier arrived when my baby was just about 2 weeks old. Which, honestly, was perfect. Until that point we were in do-whatever-it-takes mode; I only started pretending to get back to real life at about 2 weeks.
At that point, because Sir G was a prop snob, I was aiming for independent sleep for every nap and night… but it was a little bit of a process. (Which, I should add, is normal for newborns.) And in the afternoon rush, we didn’t always have time or space for that whole process (at least not without someone knocking the door down or running in and doing tribal dances while I was trying to put him to bed).
On top of that, newborns’ “schedules” are kind of all over the place – a short awake time limit and unpredictable nap lengths will often make bedtime a slightly different time every night. But most newborns will stay sleeping for a while when worn – which means you have control over the time they wake, and therefore, the time that bedtime is.
So I love recommending that last nap of the day to be in a carrier – start the nap whenever baby needs to go to sleep in the late afternoon, and wake 45 minutes before you’ll want bedtime to be (and be privileged to witness the cutest little stretch in the world!).
The reason that this works so well is twofold:
- By being sure that baby’s getting a chance to practice independent sleep for night and earlier naps in the day, your newborn is getting a chance to build those skills… and you’re still able to have the convenience and cuddles of babywearing.
- With a fail-proof way that you know baby’s going to sleep in the late afternoon/early evening, you’re calm and able to be present for your other children – and baby’s not going to be overtired.
Building Babywearing into your Infant’s POA
As your baby gets older, that awake time limit will get longer, and he’ll also become more aware of the world. Naps will start to drop off – going from 4 to 3 to 2 – and that third or fourth nap will become less and less important as it disappears. Oftentimes, as babies become more aware of the world, motion naps (carrier naps included) will start to shorten to just one sleep cycle (about 45 minutes).
Slowly but surely, that length of time between last nap and bedtime will get longer and longer, and, at some point, your baby will be up at dinnertime regardless.
Once your baby is down to a 2-nap day (around 6 mo), I recommend keeping both naps stationary as regularly as is humanly possible. Until that happens, using the carrier during the last nap can be helpful to enable you to get out of the house during naptime. Trips to the park, taking a walk or visiting a neighbor may all be great ways to get your other kids (or yourself!) out during the end of the day – and can all happen when you’re babywearing.
Having a go-to prop is a GOOD thing as your baby gets older
It’s also the perfect back-up plan for less-than ideal scenarios when your baby really does need to sleep. When Sir G was younger, he occasionally would need his nap right when I needed to pick my girls up from playgroup; I wore him. When we’d fly and he needed to nap on the plane or in the airport (which is inevitable with napping kids), I wore him. When he was in a nap transition and needed an emergency nap at the end of the day, I wore him.
In real life, your baby’s just not going to be able to take every single nap in her crib. Many babies who sleep well (and aren’t sleep deprived) struggle to fall asleep in a stroller or carseat, since it’s not an ideal sleep environment.
Highly stimulating situations are rough for babies, so having that go-to backup plan will help your baby sleep well without becoming overtired.
Some other things about babywearing
Wondering what my favorite carrier is? Well, I bought mine when my twins were 21 months and I had a newborn… so my criteria were: easy to put on, fits from the newborn stage and easy to wash. I consulted with Babywearing International, and they recommended the Beco Gemini — which I LOVE. It fits babies 7-35 lb (and my baby was born at 8.5, so he’s always fit!), doesn’t need a newborn insert, and was easy to quickly clip on to myself and clip him in.
I know that, in some circles and communities, babywearing isn’t considered “normal”. If that’s you, and you don’t want to make waves, here are some things you might consider to make this work for you in real life:
- You can babywear just at home for that last nap.
- You can babywear out of the house in the winter… and put on a maternity coat over yourself and baby (yes, I’ve actually done that).
- If your concern is the way many carriers hug and mold your body, you can try putting a cardigan over the carrier so that it covers your back and sids and isn’t as shapely.
But the bottom line is: be open to experimenting and trying something new!
What do you love about babywearing?